Forget About That Corny Corner-Ribbon's Drivel! The Real Secret is HERE Indeed - not over there!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Luminous World Overview! With Luminous Luciano (who else were you expecting?)

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Internet police state - WOW... First we had KARMA POLICE - and now THIS...
Several months ago, Google and China's government agreed on a censorship program (which is, comically enough, "enforced" by two "cheerful cartoon icons" named Jingjing and Chacha...! Hmm... I wonder if JingX2 is a jinn and if ChaX2 really does go "Cha-Cha-Cha" - and, if he does, if he knows those Charmin bruins that do the exact same thing on their way to the potty place that they have set up in the forest, by a tree...! But those are other stories...)

Surely the dynamic duo of censorship, Jingjing & Chacha, would frown upon the following websites: a site promoting and selling products made in prison (don't you all log on at once to complete your Christmas shopping one month in advance now - these products make for lousy "x-mas gifts" anyway...)
Another site our dynamic duo would frown upon would be this one - the CIA recruitment drive!!! No double agents among Chinaland folks now - or they'll send some Kamikaze killers after you! (I would joke about the Yakuza, Shogunates, Fu Manchu or -worst of all- Ninjas too, if I was truly stricken with an unfathomable "death wish" here... Oops - maybe I am...? Again; it's another story...)
And then there's always the tributes to the Dalai Lama that, one can hear Jingjing -that pokémon reject- lambaste in this manner: "thou shall not surf the web that way, websurfer-san!"
Or what? Hara-kiri is then suggested as a way to expiate "the sin"...?
For the record, though, I view the Dalai Lama as a tremendously patient and good man - but not as a deity per se. There is only one God - and He Does not thread among us. His Son briefly did - and Will Return. But really now; the Dalai Lama is really a return - to near-idolatry that is. I don't think any higher of him than I do of the Pope or the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church for example - they're all good men but they're also all nothing more but that; men. But I digress.

I wonder if blatant commercialism, mercantilism and capitalism -such as it can be found on a site like WalMart's website- can be deemed "not tolerable" by the dynamic censoring duo there...? Seems to me like Chacha, Jingjing and that infernal WalMart smiley creature are all cut from the same fabric of make-believe, virtual crapshoot cloth...! They should all get along fine, on a mere superficial basis that is! Deeper convictions though might separate them and create an unfortunate "2 on 1" situation for poor Wally there (not to be confused, indeed, with the true Wally - Fenway Park's Green Monster in Boston!) - and such a double-teaming attack would be worse than any "Target-Sears" dual assault on WalMart's fortress, I believe... It was either duo, perhaps, that orchestrated the stalling of website activity this past Friday on WalMart's website (hence deemed "Black Friday" in WalMart land!)
The official reason given though was that the volume of traffic got to be too high and the site was down for much of the day as a result... "Higher than anticipated traffic surge" was also experienced on Amazon.com and Walt Disney Co.'s websites (hmm... Walt... Wal-Mart... Truly the conspiracy theory holds here!) but both Amazon & Walt handled it far better than ol' WalMart could. (Note though that, despite my sardonic tone, I love WalMart - especially for their "Be Bright" slogan there! ;)
But do you want to know why all that happened, really?
No conspiracy theory here - simply the luminous twist now! ;)
It all transpired like that because no one had yet partaken of the luminous holiday season shopping tips that I dispensed right here on TLB Prime YESTERDAY!
There shall be no more sites jammed up to a crawl henceforth - for people will heed my plea and stop shopping illico pronto! Right? Ok - don't answer that! *lol*

I would be remiss though, with all that trivial talk of website woes, blatantly unnecessary consumerism and censorship that is so ridiculous, if I did not make another luminous juxtaposition right here - and right now!
Think of all that and then compare it with what goes on in the most troubled spot of all trouble spots - the Gaza Strip, of course.
What are kids hoping for, over there? What is anyone looking forward to, over there? They call this a truce?!? Sheesh...

Not to be upstaged -one wonders if that is not the true reason they had to fire 50 rounds like that- the NYC police produced their own fireworks on Saturday... They shot a young man, fatally at that, as he was driving away from his bachelor party in the wee hours of the morning. The young man was to walk down the aisle later on that very same day. He was 23 years-old and was caught in the middle of a covert operation, as it appears... Still, fifty bullets (eleven of which hit a passenger of the never-to-be groom, officially...) is a bit much for a mere "suspect" driving away...
And now, the kins of the victim of this hail of lead that took his life are to hold a vigil instead of dressing up for a wedding ceremony and subsequent joyous festivities... Some holiday season they will all have too, especially the would-be bride and two destined-to-remain-illegitimate children (although, nowadays, these are the norm - but I digress.)
I always wonder "why a vigil" now - for a case like this, especially... What will it accomplish? The funeral will be where "it's at" - prepare a virulent eulogy and sue the NYPD - but skip the vigil altogether. The time to be vigilant is passed - the worst has happened. With careless cops like that around -who, verily, make these guys look like geniuses- one had to be on one's guard when it mattered the most...

All the articles upon which this "luminous world overview" (hmm - L.W.O. - how interesting) was based upon are either linked or to be found in the luminous comments section!

That's enough of a world overview for now! Stay tuned for interesting luminous sidebar happenings - until the next posting on the main stage here...!
This is Luminous Luciano signing off/logging out/or just standing by...
I haven't quite decided yet, to tell - no, type the truth! ;)

Link
Comments:
January
This week Google agreed to let China -- where cheerful cartoon icons Jingjing and Chacha watch over people's surfing habits -- censor Web pages the government doesn't like. GEOFFREY YORK discovers that The Globe and Mail's site is among them

GEOFFREY YORK -
Saturday, January 28, 2006

BEIJING -- When you live in China, you soon become conscious of a shadowy presence that watches over you, monitoring everything you see and do on the computer screen and the television.

George Orwell called it Big Brother. The Chinese authorities prefer a cute and cheerful name, so they've invented two cartoon figures called Jingjing and Chacha that float merrily on your computer screen. But they have the same Orwellian task: to keep you under constant surveillance to ensure that you don't look at anything unauthorized or subversive.

Jingjing and Chacha are the invention of the Internet police in the southern city of Shenzhen. They seem happy and harmless as they surf on their tiny silicon wafers. But if you put the names together, they spell jingcha -- police.

And if you try to post a comment on any of Shenzhen's websites or chat rooms, the two cartoon characters pop up on your screen to remind you that you are being monitored.

Their official task is to "maintain order" and "publicly remind all Netizens to be conscious of safe and healthy use of the Internet," one state-controlled newspaper said. In addition, Internet users can communicate with the cartoon police interactively

This month, I've been thinking a lot about Jingjing and Chacha and their cheerful censorship. The icons are just the visible face of a pervasive system of censorship and control that extends throughout China.

A few weeks ago, for example, the Globe and Mail website was abruptly blocked by the Chinese authorities.

Was there something about Canadian democracy that offended the secret security agents who patrol Chinese cyberspace? Was there something in our election coverage -- perhaps a passing reference to a banned subject such as the Dalai Lama or Falun Gong -- that somehow raised the ire of China's Web censors? Or was it a byproduct of a crackdown on a dissident website that may have contained a link to the Globe site?

I can only guess, but you're forced to guess about everything in China. The authorities never explain their reasons.

The latest saga began early this month, when I first discovered that the Globe and Mail website was inaccessible.

A couple of days later, I happened to be working in Cambodia, and discovered that the Globe site was fully accessible there.

The irony was sharp. China sees itself as an economic powerhouse in the mainstream of global business, while Cambodia is seen as an impoverished backwater. Yet it is Cambodia where the Internet is much freer.

A few days later, back in China, the Globe website was available for a few days. Then it was blocked again, and it remained blocked this week.

For any high-tech country with global ambitions in the information age, it seems paradoxical to block information. Yet this is what China does. With an estimated 40,000 Internet police officers, China makes a massive effort to control everything you see and read.

It's the uncertainty and unpredictability of the nanny state that frustrates the most. Every week, another website seems to blink off, snuffed out by the Web censors, and it is impossible to know why. A week later, the site might be accessible again -- or it might not.

You can be happily surfing the news on the Yahoo or Google news sites, but if you click on a routine story on a banned subject -- or even a story about Web censorship itself -- you will see an error message on your screen. And then the entire site becomes temporarily inaccessible, as if to punish you for your errant ways.

The dead hand of state bureaucracy lies heavily on every sphere of information. You can be browsing at a newsstand, intrigued by an article promoted in the index of The Economist or Newsweek. Buy the magazine, get home, turn to the article -- and discover that the entire page has been torn out by government censors because of an offending passage.

You can be watching CNN or BBC (generally available only at hotels or elite housing compounds that cater to foreigners) and an announcer will introduce a story about China. Suddenly the screen goes blank. The censors know what is coming next, and they don't want you to hear it.

Simple Internet research tools, such as Wikipedia and the Factiva database of media articles, can be shut down for weeks at a time. Sometimes it is a gesture of intimidation: Negotiate a commercial deal with the Chinese authorities, or face a shutdown of operations.

Meanwhile, the world's powerful Internet companies seem happy to comply with Big Brother's surveillance. Google revealed this week that it has agreed to censor itself in China to comply with Chinese regulations. Microsoft launched a portal in China last year that blocked the use of words such as "freedom" in blogs. And Yahoo agreed to comply with Chinese demands for e-mail account details on a journalist who was later jailed for his Internet activities. (Of the 62 cyber-dissidents in prisons around the world, 54 are in China.)

The censorship is worse for Chinese-language media, of course. When a village protest in southern China turned into a bloodbath, with police firing machine guns at civilian protesters, the news was inevitably blocked from the Chinese media. Only a single authorized statement from China's state-owned news agency (blaming the protesters) was permitted, and even this was not available in most media. The official statement was posted on a couple of major Chinese websites, but readers were prohibited from commenting on it.

One of China's tiny handful of adventurous newspapers, the Beijing News, was recently stripped of its independent-minded editors, and a loyal cadre was appointed to bring it under control. Another outspoken newspaper, a weekly supplement to China Youth Daily, was shut down this week.

Less than three years ago, China was entering a brief flowering of press freedoms, linked to the SARS epidemic and the change of leadership at the top of the Communist Party. But today, with President Hu Jintao consolidating his power, China is rolling back the freedoms. While the rest of the world embraces the opportunities of the Internet, China is moving in the opposite direction.

To research this article, I wanted to look at an international survey of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, an independent Paris-based organization. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, their website was blocked in China. To dodge the censors, I had to send an e-mail message to the hardworking librarians at The Globe and Mail's head office in Toronto, asking them to dig up the study and send it to me.

The survey, incidentally, gave China a dismal rating of 159 out of 167 countries in the global index of press freedom. Only a few totalitarian countries -- including North Korea, Turkmenistan and Cuba -- are rated as worse than China in their press freedoms. Even the war-torn country of Iraq is rated as freer than China.

I briefly wondered whether those jolly cartoon figures, Jingjing and Chacha, might want to say anything about this trend. But they were inaccessible to a reporter from Beijing Youth Daily who tried to explore these questions. "The main function of Jingjing and Chacha is to intimidate, not to answer questions," the journalist was told by an official at the Internet Security and Surveillance Division of the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau.

Geoffrey York is The Globe and Mail's correspondent in Beijing.

--

© The Globe and Mail. Republished with permission. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or republished or redistributed without the prior written consent of the copyright holder.


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Web catalog offers prison-made products

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press Writer Sat Nov 25, 5:30 PM ET

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Internet shopping knows no boundaries, not even for products made behind bars. Maryland Correctional Enterprises, the manufacturing division of the state Division of Correction, has put its 182-page catalog online. Now anyone can see, if not buy, hundreds of items the agency offers for sale to government agencies and Maryland nonprofit organizations. The catalog is at http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/mcem.

The products include institutional clothing, bedding, clocks, signs — and lots of furniture. Nearly half the pages are filled with furniture, including the Slammer table, designed for correctional environments and named "because they put 'em in the slammer," said Jeff Beeson, executive director of Maryland Correctional Enterprises' board of directors.

Topping the furniture offerings is the Traditional Veneer Line, with prices up to $1,885 for a U-shaped desk.

There's pure Maryland pride in the Canton Collection. It features nearly three dozen pieces made from scratch — unlike some of the other lines that are merely assembled at the prisons. The pieces are designed by furniture plant manager Rusty Hyatt, who lives in — where else? — Canton.

The list of seating options reads like a Maryland geography lesson: Silver Spring, Chesapeake, Potomac, New Windsor, Frederick, Bel Air, Crisfield, Monkton, Hampstead, Ellicott, Allegany and Woodbine.

"We're proud to be Maryland. We're proud to be the prison industry for Maryland," Beeson said.

He said MCE employs about 1,600 inmates at nine prisons and in warehouse, delivery and photocopying jobs outside prison walls. They are paid a base rate of $1.10 to $2.60 a day, Beeson said.

The agency sold $42.8 million worth of goods last year, making it 10th among prison industries in sales in the United States.

Beeson said inmates who work in the plants tend to re-offend and return to prison at about half the rate of those who don't. Inmates must have a high-school diploma or GED to work for the agency, which can help with their schooling.

"We truly believe we're doing something good here," Beeson said.

Private furniture makers aren't as keen on prison industries. The Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association, based in Arlington, Va., supports a bill passed in September by the U.S. House of Representatives that would require Federal Prison Industries Inc. to compete on a more even footing with the private sector for federal contracts. A 2004 law ended its monopoly on supplying office furniture and other items to federal agencies, but left it with some advantages, said Michael Ochs, the trade group's director of government affairs.

He said the association has concentrated on the federal, not the state level. But Ochs said state prison industries — and every state has such an agency — also cut into private industry sales.

"We would like to see open and fair competition where the industry can compete on an equal footing," Ochs said.

Maryland law requires state agencies to buy from Maryland Correctional Enterprises any goods or services it can provide at prices at or below the prevailing average market price.

Beeson said Maryland Correctional Enterprises tries to limit its negative economic impact on the private sector by producing things not made by Maryland companies.

"Every year we study it, and for the whole state of Maryland, we constitute less than 3 percent of anyone's business in any one category," he said.

One category in which the agency has no competition is license plates. It makes every tag sold in Maryland, accounting for $3.8 million in sales.

___

On the Net:

National Correctional Industries Association: http://www.nationalcia.org

Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association: http://www.iopfda.org/




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Wal-Mart's site stalls on Black Friday

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer Fri Nov 24, 6:49 PM ET

NEW YORK - High traffic disrupted Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Web site for much of Friday, one of the year's busiest shopping days.

ADVERTISEMENT (Please spare me the wal-mart smileyface - PLEASE! The only Wally I like is Wally The Green Monster - from Fenway Park, Boston - not from Sesame Street, you ninny! *LOL*)

The Walt Disney Co. also had problems handling the rush of online activity Friday, while Amazon.com Inc.'s site had brief disruptions a day earlier due to a Thanksgiving Day sale on Microsoft Corp.'s
Xbox 360 video game machines.

For much of Friday morning, attempts to open Walmart.com resulted blank pages, delays or other problems. By early afternoon, visitors were simply told to come back later.

Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella blamed a "higher than anticipated traffic surge."

Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, marks one of the year's busiest days for retailers and the official start of the holiday shopping season.

The Wal-Mart site appeared to be back to normal mid-afternoon Friday, after frustrating countless potential shoppers for some 10 hours.

"People who wanted to purchase one of those plasma TVs, ... they probably went to a competitor potentially," said Ben Rushlo, senior manager of competitive research at Keynote Systems Inc.

Keynote, which regularly monitors performance at leading Web sites, said its probes began detecting problems at about 4:30 a.m. EST. Throughout the morning, visitors still could access portions of the site but generally ran into difficulty before completing purchases.

For instance, searches that normally take a second or two were taking 30 or 40 seconds, Rushlo said, and attempts to log in or pay for purchases sometimes generated error messages.

Walmart.com is the 21st most popular site in the U.S., with 22.8 million unique visitors in September, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Rushlo said retailers get better each year bracing for the volumes, but they also make their sites increasingly complex, adding 360-degree views of products and other features. Nonetheless, with the exception of Wal-Mart, online retailers were generally performing well.

"There were a few glitches here and there, minor problems," Rushlo said.

He said Amazon.com's troubles were relatively small.

The site was disrupted for about 15 minutes, starting at about 2 p.m. EST Thursday, as the retailer was offering the Xbox 360 to the first 1,000 customers for $100, $200 below the regular retail price.

"We saw dramatically more traffic than what we anticipated," Amazon.com spokesman Craig Berman said Friday.

The Xbox sold out in 29 seconds, Berman said. Amazon also sold out of discounted Mongoose mountain bikes, Barbie dolls and Amazon Prime memberships with $100 gift certificates in about 15 minutes.

The home page of Disney's shopping site generally loaded fine, but troubles occurred "a couple of clicks into it," said Gary Foster, spokesman for DisneyShopping.com.

He said the site began to experience congestion at about 9 a.m. EST, following a record Thanksgiving Day of sales and Web traffic. He said Disney already was planning to run sales through Sunday night and expects customers to come back.

"I'm fairly certain we will make up for the loss today," he said.

Roughly 137 million people are expected to hit the mall from Friday to Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation, making it one of the most lucrative weekends for stores.

Millions of people are also expected to shop online starting this weekend. The Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as "Cyber Monday," is expected to be one of the year's biggest online holiday shopping days, as people return to work and shop online using their office computers.

___

Associated Press Writers Curt Woodward in Seattle and Vivian Chu in New York contributed to this report.




...
 
Despite truce, Palestinian attacks go on

By AMY TEIBEL and IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer 22 minutes ago

JERUSALEM - Israeli troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip as an unexpected truce took hold Sunday, but two major Palestinian militant groups, saying they had no intention of stopping their attacks, fired volleys of homemade rockets into Israel.

ADVERTISEMENT TIME (As if now was the time to hawk some crap on poor unsuspecting consumers - especially those of us who might have relatives over there, in the "trouble spot", by that strip in the middle-eastern regions... Darn, it does sound like an allegorical reference to the CRACK! But I digress...)

The rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad tempered hopes for a lasting cease-fire, which was meant to end five months of deadly clashes. The rockets landed in open fields and caused no injuries.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his security chiefs to send their forces to the Gaza border area to prevent further rocket attacks, according to Palestinian security officials.

"The instructions are clear. Anyone violating the national agreement will be considered to be breaking the law," said Lt. Gen. Abdel Razek Almajaydeh.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the army to show restraint in the face of the rockets.

"Even though there are still violations of the cease-fire by the Palestinian side, I have instructed our defense officials not to respond, to show restraint, and to give this cease-fire a chance to take full effect," he said.

A senior Israeli official said Israel would wait a few hours to see if the attacks were isolated breaches or a full-scale violation of the agreement before deciding whether to respond. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The truce, if it holds, would be a coup for Abbas, who has been trying for months to end the violence in Gaza. He has also been working to end crippling international sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority when the militant Hamas group won January parliamentary elections and formed a Cabinet.

Abbas, a moderate from the Fatah Party, was elected separately last year.

The two sides announced the truce late Saturday after Abbas telephoned Olmert with an agreement from Palestinian militant groups to halt rocket fire and other violence from Gaza.

Olmert pledged to end the military offensive in Gaza, launched in June after Hamas militants in Gaza conducted a cross-border raid on a military outpost, killing two soldiers and capturing one other.

The violence has claimed the lives of more than 300 Palestinians and five Israelis. Most of the Palestinians killed have been militants, but scores of civilians have been killed as well, including 19 members of an extended family killed earlier this month in a botched Israeli artillery attack.

Ahead of the new agreement, which took effect at 6 a.m. Sunday, Israel pulled all its forces out of Gaza, the army said. Dozens of tanks and armored vehicles were parked just over the border in a military staging ground in southern Israel early Sunday.

But Israeli police reported at least four rockets fired at the Israeli town of Sderot and an Associated Press photographer in the border town heard at least two more strikes. Another AP photographer in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun heard several rockets fired throughout the morning.

"Let's hope that's just the problems of the beginning," said Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin. "But if Israel is attacked, we will respond. If there are Palestinian factions that are not part of the cease-fire, it's hard to see how the cease-fire will hold."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he had contacted the leaders of all the Palestinian factions Sunday and they reassured him they were committed to the truce.

"There is a 100 percent effort to make this work, but there is no guarantee of 100 percent results," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led government.

Hamas' own militants claimed responsibility for firing rockets into Israel after the truce took hold, clouding prospects for the truce's longevity. The Hamas militants said they continued their attacks because some Israeli troops remained inside Gaza, an accusation Israel denied.

"(We) reiterate that our attacks against the enemy continue," the group said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Islamic Jihad also claimed responsibility for firing rockets into Israel and a spokesman, Abu Hamza, denied his group had signed on to the truce, contradicting statements from Islamic Jihad leaders.

Israeli forces originally entered Gaza to try to recover the soldier captured in a June 25 cross-border raid, but they soon widened their objectives to target militants firing rockets into Israel.

The violence cut short efforts by Olmert and Abbas to restart peace talks. A truce could help create momentum for new talks.

"We welcome the announcement and see this as a positive step forward," White House spokesman Alex Conant said Saturday evening in Washington. "We hope it leads to less violence for the Israeli and Palestinian people."

Israel has no ties with the Hamas government, which rejects the Jewish state's right to exist, but it considers Abbas an acceptable negotiating partner. He and Olmert agreed months ago to meet, but Abbas has balked at setting a date without assurances the meeting would yield real dividends for him, such as a release of Palestinian prisoners Israel holds.

Olmert has said no prisoners would be released to Hamas before the captured soldier is freed.

___

Associated Press reporter Ibrahim Barzak reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.
Ah - and it was of course I, Luciano Pimentel, who dared add some humor in re: advertisement and the "crack", back there... This is not the Holy Bible, you know: to the Word, thou shalt not add anything but to this - a mere report on an absurd situation man perpetrates over and over and over again - this here I sure as hell will burn for all of eternity I can add to, and will add to! Even if it is the equivalent of adding fuel to the fire...?
But I digress...



...
 
Kin plan vigil for NYC shooting victims

By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press Writer 3 minutes ago

NEW YORK - Sean Bell and his fiancee had already shared a high school romance, then two children. In the early hours of what was to be their wedding day, the reception hall lay waiting, covered in satin and adorned with balloons. But the ceremony never occurred Saturday. Police shot 50 rounds at the groom's car as he drove away from his bachelor party, killing the 23-year-old hours before he was to walk down the aisle.

ADVERTISEMENT TIME - AGAIN (not something to promote the merits of the NYPD now - is it?!?)

The hail of gunfire at a car full of unarmed men drew an outcry from family members and community leaders, including the Rev.
Al Sharpton. Two passengers, who had been celebrating with the groom at a strip club, were also injured; one was struck by at least 11 bullets.

The officers' shots struck the men's car 21 times after it rammed into an undercover officer and hit an unmarked NYPD minivan, police said. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it was too early to say whether the shooting was justified.

The gunfire also sprayed nearby homes and a train station, though no residents were injured.

Police thought one of the men in the car might have had a gun, but investigators found no weapons. It was unclear what prompted police to open fire, Kelly said.

He said the incident stemmed from an undercover operation inside the strip club in Queens. Seven officers in plain clothes were investigating the Kalua Cabaret; five of them were involved in the shooting.

On Sunday morning, a few hours before a planned noon vigil for the victims, Sharpton told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the volume of shots fired alone raised questions about the police's actions.

"How does one justify 50 shots at unarmed men?" Sharpton asked.

According to Kelly, the groom was involved in a verbal dispute outside the club after 4 a.m. One of his friends made a reference to a gun.

An undercover officer walked closely behind Bell and his friends as they headed for their car. As he walked toward the front of the vehicle, they drove forward — striking him and a nearby undercover police vehicle.

The officer who had followed the group on foot was apparently the first to open fire, Kelly said. That officer had served on the force for five years. One 12-year veteran fired his weapon 31 times, emptying two full magazines, Kelly said.

It was the first time any of the officers, all of whom carried 9 mm handguns, had been involved in a shooting, he said.

At some point, Bell backed his car up onto the sidewalk, hitting a building gate. He then drove forward, striking the police vehicle a second time, Kelly said.

It was unclear whether the shooters had identified themselves as police, said Kelly, whose account was based on statements made by witnesses and the two officers who did not shoot their weapons. Police could not question the other officers because the district attorney must first complete an investigation, he said.

The groom was driving. Joseph Guzman, 31, was in the front passenger's seat and was shot at least 11 times. Trent Benefield, 23, who was in the back seat, was hit three times. Both men were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where Guzman was listed in critical condition and Benefield was in stable condition.

Kelly said there may have been a fourth person in the car who fled the scene.

Three officers, including the officer hit by the car, were treated and released. Another detective remained hospitalized for hypertension, Kelly said.

Abraham Kamara, 38, who lives a few blocks from where the shooting occurred, said he was getting ready for work around 4 a.m. when he heard bursts of gunfire.

"First it was like four shots," he said. "And then it was like pop-pop-pop like 12 times."

Kelly said undercover officers were inside the club to document illicit activity. With one more violation the club would be shut down, he said.

He said the establishment has a "chronic history of narcotics, prostitution and weapons complaints."

Saturday, Sharpton went to Jamaica Hospital, where Bell was pronounced dead, and Mary Immaculate Hospital on Saturday and held news conferences afterward. Later, the civil rights advocate stood with about two dozen members of the families of Bell and his fiancee.

"I will stand with this family," he said. "This stinks. Something about the story being told did not seem right."

Sharpton said Bell and his fiancee had two children, a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old.

After meeting with the two wounded men at Mary Immaculate, Sharpton said he was outraged to find the pair handcuffed to their hospital beds. The two were unshackled later Saturday and have not been charged with a crime.

"We're not anti-police ... we're anti-police brutality," Sharpton said.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell's first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited to the ceremony and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn't the type to confront police and that he was "on the straight-and-narrow."

"I can't really express myself. It's a numb feeling," Porter said. "I still don't want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened."

___

Associated Press Writers Jennifer Peltz, Tom Hays and Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.


...
 
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